A Little About Mike Darnold

Mike Darnold – written by John Caldwell, President Rotary Club of San Juan Capistrano

Before many of us knew Mike Darnold, he was a police officer in Fullerton, and later the owner and operator of a family retail and wholesale import business in San Juan Capistrano. Then about 35 years ago, Mike Darnold made a number of life and career changes and embraced his ultimate passion.

Today, Mike’s personal and professional mission is that of a servant leader of young people. Students know him as someone they can go to for encouragement and advice. They’ve learned to trust him when their young lives spin out of control. He is known as an approachable, fair but firm leader who encourages team building and self-development through service activities. To some, he is just “Mike” the life coach/mentor in room 300 on the Dana Hills High School campus where students can go when life is falling apart. Often these problems are issues relating to the abuse of substances such as alcohol, cannabis, ecstasy, methadone, barbiturates, cocaine and heroin.

Mike Darnold has been helping kids get healthy and succeed for over 20 years and is highly respected by his professional peers in education, city government and law enforcement. He is a pioneer in his field, a leading authority on what leads to drug abuse, and a facilitator and advisor on escaping a life anchored by prescription and illegal drugs.

Mike is in a unique position. He is officially under contract with the City of Dana Point, with an office at Dana Hills High School, to lead his program of student/family support for kids at risk. His office door is always open. Annually he works with over 300 students and their families on drug/alcohol abuse and other challenging issues.

He is also Founder of a sober school, and the Early Intervention Team, a non-profit AOD (Alcohol & Other Drugs) Awareness program reaching out to educate and support struggling teens and families throughout Orange County.

Mike Darnold as a Spokesman for Rotary International Ethics and Standards, Trainer for Youth Protection Service, and Founder of Rotary Youth Leadership Camp

One of Mike’s longest running and most valued contributions to young people, and one for which he is the proudest, is that of being founder and current director of District 5320’s RYLA camp in Idyllwild, CA. Since RYLA’s founding 21 years ago, the camp has served over 3,000 students from 67 High Schools within District 5320. Under Mike’s leadership, 500 Rotarians have participated as RYLA adult advisors. From that base, he is developing the next generation of district level RYLA leaders.

Mike uses the 4-Way Test on a daily basis and is quick to explain to young people its origin and importance to business and personal success.

Mike’s overall goal is to help students, along with their participating families, put themselves back on the track to higher education and the establishment of healthy personal values.

Mike Darnold’s Effectiveness and High Professional Standing

Today, Mike serves as:

  • Executive Board Member of Drug Use Is Life Abuse/Orange County Sheriff Advisory Council
  • Rotary District 5320 Chair– Drug & Alcohol Awareness Committee
  • Executive Board Member – Boy Scout Exploring for Orange County
  • Member – Orange Country Substance Abuse Prevention Network
  • Member – Prevention Coalitions of Orange County
  • Member – Over the Counter Drug and Prescription Drug Abuse Prevention Task Force
  • Member – Orange County Meth Task Force
  • Member – South Orange County Underage Drinking Task Force
  • Member – Partnership for a Drug Free America (Orange County and Washington DC)

In the past, Mike has also served these organizations:

  • Co-founder – Coastal Mountain Youth Academy – Wilderness School for Teens
  • President – County of Orange Drug and Alcohol Advisory Board
  • President – County of Orange Local Schools Drug Policy Advisory Commission
  • President – National Council on Alcoholism/Drug Dependence for Orange County
  • Chapman Medical Center
  • Director, Community Outreach and Education on Chemical Dependence in Adolescents and Adults
  • Director, Drug and Alcohol In-service and Outreach – Serving all OC school districts, training and education for staff, parents and students
  • Member – Orange County Sheriff Advisory Council

He has received numerous certificates of appreciation ranging from U.S. Congressional Recognition to Honorary Service Award from the California Congress of Parents, Teachers and Students. Mike is also “Certified by Parent Project as Parent Training Facilitator”  by the National Parent Project Program as a facilitator for parenting.

Mike Darnold’s Home Community Also Recognizes His Important Contributions

  • San Juan Capistrano “Citizen of the Year” 1983
  • City of San Juan Capistrano “John R. Williams” Award 1989
  • South Orange County “CSC “Lee Steelman” Award 2006
  • Rotary District 5320 Governor 1993-94
  • Four times President of San Juan Capistrano Chamber of Commerce
  • Founder of San Juan Community Task Force for Youth
  • Elected and served 8 years on Capistrano Unified School District School Board
  • 2008 Recipient – Prevention Award from Orange County Substance Abuse Prevention Council
  • 2012 Recipient of the prestigious Rotary International “Service Above Self” award
  • Served on Boards and Officer of SJC Historical Society, Fiesta Association, YMCA,    Boys Scouts, Boys and Girls Club and more.